We’re always impressed by the amazing quality of images on display at Your Shot, the popular National Geographic showcase for amateur photography. Each month, an army of digitally-armed Davids submits thousands of pictures to ngm.com; photo editors then select twelve images to display online at The Daily Dozen, but only two or three are chosen for publication in the print edition of National Geographic. Each published photo is accompanied by a caption prepared by a professional writer on the NGM staff.
This curious division of laborâ€”professional words for amateur picturesâ€”got us pondering the possibility of a parallel feature that might be called Your Text, a showcase for small bits of Twitter-length copy submitted by people in The Crowd. National Geographic editors could select the very best entries, and then dispatch a professional NGM photo editor to search for decent pictures that might dovetail nicely with the prose. Think of it as Your Shot, but reverse engineered.
We move fast here at Society Matters, and within 24 hours of the aforementioned pondering, we’ve launched our own version of Your Textâ€”and already we have our first winning submission. (Okay, it’s our only submission thus far, but why nitpick?) It comes from Mr. David Jeffery of St. Michaels, Maryland. His first-place caption for a picture-to-be-named-later:
“I say it’s a zebra, and I say the hell with it.”
While the phrasing sounded vaguely familiar, we decided to run with it anyway because it captures what the American Short Prose Society once called the “three eternal virtues” of good caption writing: Brevity, Clarity, Bite.
We also liked Mr. Jeffery’s entry because it made us laugh.
Our work, of course, had only just begun. Our crack team of photo editors began to study the structure and rhythm of Mr. Jeffery’s words. They debated the literary symbolism at play, and the many layers of meaning within. They called upon expert consultants, including a zoologist, a theologian, two linguists, and a comedian. They also spent a good three minutes on Google Image Search, typing in “horse” and “zebra”â€”and then clicking through a few pages of results.
After all that labor, here’s what they delivered:
Think you can do better on the picture side? Let us know in the comments â€” or via email: alan [at] societymatters [dot] org.
As for you, Mr. Jeffery â€” you win a digital picture of a new Society Matters coffee mug. Enjoy!
(You’ll get a real mug as soon as we have sufficient demand to actually order a box of them.)